…continued from The Spiritual Side of Parenting
Here it was. Here was the recipe. I had dug deep and unearthed some important truths. I had found the way to my alignment and the way to true success as a parent, and beyond. But unlike my favourite brownie recipe, this recipe was harder to follow and not so immediately gratifying. But why? If so simple, then why so hard? What was getting in the way?
I had figured out what I wanted and what I needed to do to get there. I tried, but unfortunately it wasn’t coming easily to me. Even after my powerful realizations, I was coming up short, not creating the kind of environment at home that would yield the things my heart truly wanted. What gives? How could that be? I wasn’t stepping into my newfound role. What was stopping me from doing the things I wanted to do? Where was the disconnect? Was there something in my way…forces pulling me in other directions, something hidden, old habits, blind-spots, what? I needed to look at what was getting in my way.
At first, I didn’t want to go there. I just wanted it to be easier, more straightforward. For as long as I could, I avoided the idea of the disconnect, or more precisely, my part to play in the disconnect. I looked for answers elsewhere, outside of myself. l tried as hard as I could to convince myself that the answer to my struggles must be something else. Strangely, I focused my energy (and blame) onto the person least deserving of it. The person least likely to be willing or able to make me act in any way, let alone a way that would be detrimental to him. It seems so far fetched now, but it made sense at the time. This is what I thought: I thought my problems were caused by my child, all the ways that he was or wasn’t acting properly. It was him that was getting in my way of me being a good parent. He was the one stopping me! If only he would just listen, then we’d be good. Basically, he wasn’t letting me parent him to awesomeness. LOL. There we have it. Sound plausible? It did to me.
So, it was my child that needed to be fixed then. I decidedly put my energy into fixing him and his problems. Ignoring my own role when things would go badly, I’d find creative ways to refocus the blame back on to him. “Well, if he just would have done so and so, I wouldn’t have had to act like that”. If you find yourself in this spot, if you find yourself begrudgingly relating to this story-line, I need you to pay attention. This is major cause for concern. It can’t always be someone else’s fault, especially not a child, especially not a child who is still developing, still learning, and learning from you no less. I mean, it’s so far fetched it’s not even possible. So, why would I do this? Why do we do this? This is the blind-spot that stops us from being the people and parents want to be: blaming your child for your issues.
From day one I would ignore my role. For example, his crying was a problem…not my reaction to the crying, but the fact that he cried so much. I would try to stop his crying whenever he cried. I tried so many different ways, so much energy was spent trying to stop crying. I wonder if this energy made him feel safe and like he could stop crying? Another example is that when my son became a toddler, my parenting became about controlling him and addressing his “misbehaviour”. I would get angry and bothered when his misbehaviour came across as an insult to me or would make me look bad in some way. If he hit me, didn’t listen to me, disrespected me, or did the same to someone whose opinion I cared about, it made me really mad. So, like I said, a lot of energy went into fixing him, making him be quiet, making him behave, and making him be respectful.
Here is the truth of it all. I tried to stop or control that which I was most threatened by. Let that percolate and settle in: I tried to stop and control that which was threatening to me…the crying, misbehaviour, and disrespect. That’s what I paid attention to and tried to fix. What gets your attention? When do you feel particularly threatened or angered by what your child does? It’s not the same for all of us. For me it was my child’s screams and cries; but how could that unhinge me so? Then it was the “not listening”; but how could this make me feel so enraged? And how could inadvertent disrespect or a little hit from a little child, make me feel so angry and disrespected? Obviously, I was not ever physically threatened by him in any way. So what was it? What was the deal? I’ll tell you. It turns out I was focused on me and my own hurt. I was operating in a way that was preoccupied with protecting my own wounds. Rather than being a true leader and empowering my son, rather than acting like a big person, I was acting small.
So, there I was: small and stuck again. Hoping for one thing, but doing another. Feeling into the shittiness of my own stuckness I felt an uncomfortable feeling creeping in. I knew what it was. I knew that I had to take responsibility for this disconnect, if not for myself, than for my son. I needed to own my own counterproductive behaviour. I needed to step-up and be honest. So I did. The truth that came out was this:
- I was completely uncomfortable with sadness. I was scared by it. I didn’t know if it would end. I thought it meant that I had to “fix” something. And I didn’t know how to fix anything.
- My worth was tied-up in how well my child listened to me. A good parent was one who could control his kids. I thought people would judge me if he didn’t listen.
- The hitting and supposed disrespect was a threat to my worth and my status. Because I had placed myself higher up in the hierarchy of power, being hit or disrespected by someone at the bottom, was a serious blow to my ego.
There it is. That’s how I was operating. That’s how I was parenting, yet I was still hoping to raise empowered kids, in a loving home, for a peaceful world. Carrying around these outdated petty beliefs wasn’t doing me any favours. Truth be told, I was letting my personal hangups and my ego get in the way of who I really wanted to be. So, I chewed on that and didn’t like how it tasted. Coming to terms with hard truth doesn’t feel so good.
The silver lining is that once I became aware of my own triggers, things became much easier to navigate and deal with. Once I became aware of my counterproductive beliefs and wounds, I realized I had the opportunity to take responsibility for them. If I had the choice to believe in these then I also had the choice not believe in them. I had the choice to replace the old beliefs with new ones that would serve me, serve my son, and serve the world better. But there was a catch. There was something that I needed to do. Something that I had resisted doing for a long time. I had to take my ego out of the equation. I asked myself a serious question, “What it would look like if I was to really serve my son the best way that I could”? It resulted in this:
- Sadness is okay. I can sit with it and breath. Instead of trying to fix, I can offer my loving presence.
- A good parent is one who helps his child learn things not by demanding that they listen and obey, but by modelling and trusting that this good child will learn in good time.
- I can and will let go of my status and positional authority and understand that my child’s behaviour has more to do with his needs and development than anything else. It’s not about me.
These became center pieces of my new beliefs. I tried out my new beliefs, I practised and experimented with them. Why not? I didn’t have much to lose. To make this long story short, all of this questioning and searching paid off. It has given rise to new ways of being that better serve myself, my kids, my family, and I believe, this world. I don’t always live in my new truth. I still slip and fall out of integrity. But, now I feel like I’m on track…or at least I know where the the track is if I want to find it. And I do, I come back to these questions and realizations again and again.